Why am I so excited? You would think that after so many trials that have gone bad that I wouldn't get so excited to try something new. But when the something new is very different than the something old, it gets me excited. Have I said the word "excited" enough in this paragraph?
So, other than great customer service (which goes a super long way with me), what are the reasons? So very many. My thoughts are quite jumbled, so bare with me if this gets a little sloppy.
1.) Not only is the saddle made in America, but the entire company was founded by Katee who couldn't find a single saddle to fit her Arabian and was frustrated. So she started researching and made her own saddle. That got adjusted and tweaked over time and now we have the Advantage saddle line. How great is that? I love the initiative and the passion she shows.
2.) I've worked with literally dozens of trainers, saddle fitters and companies. I have taken pictures and tracings of Gem numerous times. Each person/company wants something just a titch different. But in the end it is the same prinicple: have your horse stand "square" (all 4 feet straight and even forming a square) with the back straight and the head looking forward and relaxed. Ok. Makes sense since everyone does it. But...you end up with a saddle that fits your horse in this position. Now I don't know about you, but Gem very rarely ever stands in this position which is why it takes 2 people to do the pictures and tracings: 1 to hold her and make sure she does not move and the other to take the picture/tracing. So what happens when I get on her and actually want to ride??? Well, Katee asked this exact same question. SHE IS THE FIRST FITTER TO EVER ASK ME FOR MOVING PICTURES OF GEM. I not only sent her the typical "square" pictures, but also pictures of her walking and trotting around. This really impressed me.
3.) The panels are wide and set like English panels, but the basic tree and seat is western. The spine clearance is even and wide down the entire chanel. No sitting on her spine causing pain. The panels also come in either foam or sheep skin. I haven't gotten into the nitty gritty on the pros and cons of each of these yet.
4.) The girth. The bane of my existenct. I fully and in probably way too much detail explained my saddle moving forward woes to her. She replied that she used to have the same problem which began her whole adventure. The rigging (or way the girth attaches to the saddle) is western based (although I am sure I could make it english if I asked nicely) and is on a system that allows it to move and sit where it needs to. Imagine a webbing and a ring. The ring can slide forward or back to allow the girth to sit where it needs to while keeping the saddle stationary. Once the girth is tightened, it does not move. Or isn't supposed to anyway. I'm a little skeptical since this has been my biggest enemy to date. On the blog where I found a review of the saddle, the lady spent some time talking about this. She said that once the girth was tightened she tried to move it to another place and it wouldn't budge. Looking at many saddle pictures online the girth can be very forward and so I am hopeful. The rigging being western will also allow me to ditch the buckles that come with english rigging and this may also help with the galls.
5.) I like that it is not fully custom, but can be easily customized. I can choose between many differnt leather colors for the main body and the seat. I can get a picture or design tooled into the leather. I can have western fenders or english leathers. It also comes with a lot of d-rings to attach equipment. Lots of options.
6.) Endless options for fit. Well, not endless, per se. Actually if I could remember high school math I could tell you exactly how many options for fit existed. But I'm 31 now and that was waaaay back when and I can't remember how to even begin to figure it out. Anyway...fit. Most other saddles on the market have sizes available for the width of the gullet. Some are not very forgiving and have average, narrow, wide. Or some variety of that. Others have exchangeable gullets (like mine) where you can slip one plate out and place a different size in to increase or decrease the width. These generally have more options: narrow, medium narrow, medium, medium wide, wide, extra wide. The newest have a turn dial where you place an allen wrench and can get infinite choices between a set narrowest and widest. But they only change the gullet width. Thats it. Her saddles come in narrow, medium, and wide (more on those in a bit). But in addition to those basic gullet sizes she has added three more components: shoulder, back, loin. You can get a steep, average or flat shoulder angle and loin angle and you cna get less, average or more rock to the saddle from front to back. Example:
Medium gullet with a steep shoulder, flat rock and average loin
Narrow gullet with a flat shoulder, lots of rock and steep loin
Wide gullet with an average shoulder, minimal rock and flat loin
See? Lots of possibilites so that the ENTIRE saddle fits and not just the gullet.